The spatial and temporal distribution of recharge to carbonate and clastic aquifers along the eastern slopes of the Sandia Mountains was investigated by using precipitation, water-level, dissolved chloride, and specific-conductance data. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Bernalillo County Public Works Division, conducted a study to assess ground-water conditions and provide technical data that could be used as a basis for management and future planning of eastern Bernalillo County water resources. The intent of the investigation was to improve the current understanding of subsurface mechanisms controlling recharge dynamics in a geologically complex aquifer system. In the Sandia Mountains, precipitation events are generally limited to snowfalls in winter months and monsoon rainfall in late summer. Monthly meteorological data from weather stations in the study area indicate that monsoon rainfall during July and August constitutes close to one-third of annual precipitation totals. Following precipitation and snowmelt events, daily ground-water level data show low-amplitude, long-duration peaks in hydrographs of wells north and west of the Tijeras Fault. Hydrographs of monthly and biannual water-level data from across the study area show seasonal variation and water-level fluctuations in excess of 30 ft during a period of below-average precipitation. Water level observations in 67 percent of wells showing drought-induced water-level declines rebounded to at or near predrought conditions within 6 months of return to normal climate conditions. Cross-correlation of annual hydrologic data shows aquifer response to periods of monsoon recharge to persist from 1 to 6 months following events. The lag time between precipitation input and response of water levels or solute concentrations was largest near the Tijeras and Gutierrez Faults. These results indicate regional faults hydrologically isolate the Tijeras Graben from groundwater recharge originating at high elevations along the eastern slopes of the Sandia Mountains. Recharge rates calculated by using the chloride-mass-balance method for five springs located at the base of the Sandia Mountains ranged from 1 to 23 percent of annual precipitation.
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USGS Numbered Series
Precipitation, Ground-water Hydrology, and Recharge Along the Eastern Slopes of the Sandia Mountains, Bernalillo County, New Mexico